How to Create Content That Actually Resonates With Your Readers

    by Corey Eridon

    Date

    October 24, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    puppy with communication problemsintermediate

    Most content creators have probably felt like that puppy to the right ... you try so hard to get a point across, but your audience just doesn't seem to "get it." Or maybe they just don't care.

    What's the deal, guys? Y U NO LIKE BLOG POST? (I won't turn that into a meme; we're on a strict 1-meme-per-post diet.)

    The task of not just creating content, but creating content that resonates with your readers, is a critical but difficult task to master. In fact, MarketingProfs' newly released B2B Content Marketing benchmarking report cites that 52% of marketers find producing the kind of content that engages is their biggest challenge -- it was the most frequently cited challenge, second only to producing enough content.

    But the content that tickles a reader's fancy is the stuff that gets shared socially, forwarded, and linked to from other sites. It's the stuff that keeps people reading 'til the end, driving conversions. It elevates your marketing from mediocre to monumental! We've got to create this kind of content, marketers.

    But ... how do we do it? This post is going to break down what seems like an art -- connecting with readers through your content -- and turn it into more of a science. Because there are certain elements that, if you infuse them into your content, will make it more relatable and impactful for your readers. Here's what you can do to create content that resonates within the deepest, darkest recesses of your readers' souls (or something a little less intense).

    Develop Personas

    The first step to creating content that resonates with readers is getting a better understanding of who your readers are, especially the ones you want to convert into leads and customers. That means if you haven't developed personas yet, now's the time. We've talked a lot in the past about how to create buyer personas -- you can read a comprehensive guide to conducting the research here, and download a free template to fill in that research and actually compile your buyer personas here.

    But in addition to buyer personas, consider also creating reader personas. Because while you probably care most about appealing to your readers who will convert into leads and customers, there's also a segment of your readers who will probably never buy from your business, but will continue to read and share your content. In an ideal world, you can understand and appeal to both segments. Conducting that persona research now will give you the information you need to infuse the rest of the elements discussed in this blog post into your marketing content.

    Deliver Content in the Right Format

    You know how people get into debates about which is better -- reading a book on a tablet, or reading a real-life book with pages you can actually flip through? That's the kind of debate you should have about all of your marketing content. Whenever you set out to create a piece of marketing content, ask yourself:

    1) What content format type is the best way to get this message across?

    2) In what content format type will my audience most like to consume this content?

    Here's an example from just the other day that nicely demonstrates the importance of choosing the right content format for optimal reader experience. Yesterday, we published a blog post, "12 Revealing Charts to Help You Benchmark Your Business Blogging Performance." The graphs came from a new ebook, Marketing Benchmarks From 7,000 Businesses, which contained benchmarking data about business blogging ... as well as landing pages, social media, and website analytics. Why use a blog post to highlight 12 charts just about blogging, and an ebook to highlight the dozens and dozens of other charts about all those other areas of marketing?

    Because a blog is better suited to short-form content, while an ebook -- particularly because someone had to fill out a form with their personal information to redeem it -- is going to have a more captive audience, interested in scrolling through dozens and dozens of charts. The right content format, for the right type of content.

    Whether it's deciding to create an infographic instead of a blog post, a video instead of an owner's manual, or a blog post instead of a checklist, determine what content format will help you get your message across in 1) the clearest way, and 2) the way your audience will most enjoy to read it.

    Paint a Picture

    Let's say you're about to write a blog post about how you should optimize your marketing for mobile, and you want to write an introduction that'll hook the reader. Which introductory line is more likely to grab readers' attention?

    Intro Line 1: Mobile devices are very important.

    Intro Line 2: You know when your alarm goes off in the morning, and the first thing you do is fumble around all groggy-eyed for your cell phone?

    Both statements get the point across -- people are really into their mobile devices -- but that second one paints a picture in the reader's mind that he or she can relate to. "Yeah, I totally do that in the morning!" Or, "Yeah, my husband/wife totally does that and it drives me crazy." When you find some common ground with the reader, and use that common ground to craft a story they can relate to, your reader becomes an active participant in the story you're trying to tell through your content. Use words to paint a picture that tells your reader this piece of content was written just for them.

    Literally, Paint a Picture

    Or make a meme, embed some video, create charts and graphs ... do something visual! There's no person alive who looks at thousands of words of text and thinks, "Man, I'm so glad they didn't include any pictures."

    Images not only break up the monotony of text; they also help you tell a story better than words often can. Or at the very least, more succinctly. Take this content visualization that explains how different types of offer content align with different stages in the sales cycle:

    mapping marketing offers

    Explaining this concept is a huge pain in the butt. I know, because the reason this visualization was created was due to several hours of struggling to explain this complicated concept in this very long blog post about content mapping. If visuals can tell your story better than the written word, then go for a visual format -- or at least incorporate visuals alongside your written content. The easier you make it for readers to understand your content, the more impactful it is.

    Plus, you know what they say about the picture to word conversion rate; I hear it's somewhere in the thousands ;-)

    Use Data to Show Impact

    Sometimes content creators need a little help from their old friend (or foe) mathematics to convey the impact of a point. That's one of the reasons I think infographics are so powerful ... they combine words, numbers, and imagery to display just how monumental something is in terms everyone can easily understand. For instance, check out how this snippet from a GetResponse infographic displays data about the percentage of email marketers who include sharing links to a specific social network.

    ig example resized 600

    Way more impactful that just writing it out, right?

    But data doesn't necessarily need the backing of a designer to pack a powerful punch. Sometimes, the numbers just speak for themselves. Take one of our most successful blog posts of all time, "LinkedIn 277% More Effective for Lead Generation Than Facebook & Twitter." That data point could have been positioned differently -- but saying "LinkedIn Has a 2.74% Visit-to-Lead Conversion Rate" doesn't exactly resonate as strongly. That's because most people don't really know what the benchmark is for an amazing visit-to-lead conversion rate. People do know, however, that 277% more effective is waaaaaay more effective. As such, it's waaaaaay easier for people to care about the content.

    Solicit Audience Opinion

    When you actually ask readers to get involved with your content, they have a vested interest in it because they were a part of its creation. Ask your readers, commenters, social media followers, customers, the whole lot, to participate in the content creation process. For instance, in a blog post about overcoming crippling blogging challenges, I took to Twitter to ask people what their biggest challenges and solutions to those challenges are.

    twitter outreach resized 600

    Getting Kate involved in the brainstorm process got her inherently involved in the blog post -- seeing whether her problem and solution was featured, and what problems and solutions were addressed in the post. If you take this approach, be sure to reach out to those who participated in your crowd-surfed content after it's published to increase the likelihood that they share it with their networks, too.

    Provide Real-life or Theoretical Examples

    Examples not only make you a better teacher -- and content that teaches something is often naturally more engaging -- but it also helps you connect with the reader by bridging the gap between theory and application. I mean, how often has "theory" really razzled and dazzled someone, am I right?

    After you explain a concept, bring it into the real world for your readers by providing an example of that theory in practice that they can relate to. These examples can be real-life examples, showing instances of real brands doing exactly what you're talking about, or they can be theoretical examples, a la "imagine you're a lawyer who's trying to ..."

    To practice what we preach, here's an example of this very thing. In a blog post about how to make your customers feel all exclusive and VIP, we suggested partnering with relevant businesses so you can offer exclusive deals to your customers. Instead of just ... telling you that ... we found a brand that does it, and showed that tactic being executed:

    gym it example resized 600

    Even if you can't find a real-life example to help bridge the gap between theory and application, you can write out a "for instance" of your own that helps your reader understand how your suggestion would play out for them. Again, practicing what we preach, here's an example of just that from a recent blog post about generating leads from your business blog:

    unicorn example resized 600

    We made up the example of a unicorn breeder trying to blog about his business, so that any reader could see him or herself in those shoes. An all-encompassing example like this resonates with everyone!

    Use the Right Tone

    This is probably the most nuanced element of creating impactful marketing content. It takes not only experimentation to get it just right, but also an in-depth knowledge of both your personas, and how writing elements like grammar, tone, and punctuation affect your persona. This includes things like:

    • Sentence structure
    • Sense of humor
    • Word choice
    • Punctuation usage
    • Content formatting

    All of these elements can dramatically change the way a sentence reads. Here's an example to demonstrate what I mean by this.

    We recently published a blog post about how to prioritize your mobile optimization efforts if you don't have the ability to optimize for everything -- mobile website, mobile SEO, mobile emails, SMS, apps -- all at once. Here's what the first couple sentences of the post looked like:

    mobile optimization

    The flippant tone coupled with several short, abrupt sentences, one after another, help convey the feeling of annoyance many marketers face at constantly being told to optimize for mobile, even when doing so is a really overwhelming endeavor. Compare that to an introduction that reads like this:

    You probably understand that mobile optimization is important.

    It says the same thing; the reader knows mobile optimization is important. But it doesn't really strike a chord. It doesn't press that button with the readers who are sick and tired of being told to mobile optimize when they have no idea how to get started, and don't have the resources to do it all. The first variation is tapping into both a fact, and a feeling. The second variation? Fact, with no feeling.

    A content creator that makes purposeful stylistic choices is ensuring their content reads in a way that resonates with their readers, and makes it easy -- even enjoyable -- for them to consume that content.

    What are your tricks to make your marketing content resonate with your readers?

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